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How to Become an Arborist: A Step-By-Step Guide

Published on March 6, 2024

As you explore how to become an arborist, it’s important to take certain considerations into account in order to set yourself up for long-term success.

In this article, you’ll discover how to become an arborist who’s:

  • Hireable
  • Certified
  • Successful
  • Qualified for the job at hand
  • Experienced and skilled enough to stand out
  • Connected with other professionals within the industry

By the end of this article, you’ll explore how to become an arborist who’s prepared for anything that comes your way!

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What Is an Arborist?

In short, an arborist is a trained professional who tackles the art and science of planting, caring, maintaining and diagnosing trees, shrubs, and other woody plants.

Often synonymous with “tree surgeon,” arborists do things like:

  • Assess the condition of trees
  • Diagnose potential plant diseases
  • Recommend how to properly care and maintain plants

In addition, arborists offer specialty services, such as:

  • Planting
  • Pruning
  • Trimming
  • Fertilization
  • Drought mitigation
  • Insect and disease control
  • Preventative and seasonal care

Why Choose a Career as an Arborist

There are many reasons why many arborists choose this profession.

In order to decide if discovering how to become an arborist is right for you, take a look at a few of the key personality traits of the typical arborist:

  • Comfortable with heights
  • Loves to work independently outdoors
  • Enjoys preventing and solving plant problems
  • Doesn’t mind physical exertion in varying weather conditions

Plus, the average arborist makes about $23.07 per hour, and the average base salary is $76,084 per year.

However, keep in mind these wages will widely vary based on your location, experience, and certifications.

Also, the conservation scientists and foresters industry as a whole is expected to grow by 4% in 2032.

How to Become an Arborist in 5 Simple Steps

Take a look at how to become an arborist with long-term success using these essential simple steps:

1. Education

At a minimum, most businesses will expect you to have a highschool diploma, GED, or some other equivalent.

While it’s not required to have an associates or bachelor’s degree, a degree in arboriculture, horticulture, landscape architecture, environmental science, urban forestry, or another related field is preferred.

Plus, having any level of degree in this field will help you to stand out from other arborists applying for positions as well as earn a higher wage.

For example, here’s an arborist education breakdown by percentage:

  • 45% have a bachelor’s degree
  • 25% have a high school diploma
  • 16% have an associate’s degree
  • 7% have a diploma
  • 7% have other degrees

2. Experience

Depending on your state, you may or may not need to acquire a license to become an arborist.

Currently, 8 states require licensing to become an arborist. Also, depending on the state, licensing requirements may widely vary.

To start, you can gain initial experience by applying for entry-level arborist positions.

In turn, this experience will allow you to gain valuable insight by being an apprentice shadowing a skilled arborist.

As an entry-level arborist, you can expect to:

  • Perform hard labor
  • Climb trees for trimming
  • Follow instruction from a crew leader
  • Discover best safety and first aid practices
  • Develop your ability to identify plants/trees and diagnose issues or diseases
  • Learn about insects, wildlife, plants (poisonous and nonpoisonous alike), and more
  • Learn how to properly use PPE, equipment, and chemicals with the right precautions

Pro Tip! Stand out from your fellow arborist professionals by taking initiative in seeking additional responsibilities, learning opportunities, and taking interest in projects you want.

3. Certifications

Even though it’s not required, many businesses prefer to hire candidates with an ACP (i.e. accredited certification program.

The ISA (i.e. International Society of Arboriculture) is the most commonly used accredited arborist certification program.

In order to be eligible for an ISA certification, you’ll need to have at least ONE of the following:

  • 3 years of experience in working with trees
  • Bachelor’s degree with at least 4 arboriculture courses and one year of experience
  • Associate’s degree with at least 2 arboriculture courses and two years of experience

The ISA considers 1,795 hours to be equivalent to one year of experience.

After earning an ACP from ISA, you can apply for additional credentials, such as:

  • Master arborist
  • Utility specialist
  • Arborist municipal specialist
  • Tree worker climber specialist
  • Tree worker aerial lift specialist
  • Tree risk assessment qualification

Additionally, the ISA offers continuing education credentials to ensure you maintain your certification status with the most updated level of knowledge.

4. Networking and Industry Associations

By far, joining industry associations is one of the best ways you can stay current on the latest industry knowledge, trends, and cutting edge ideas.

Plus, this level of networking allows you to ensure you have the skills, education, and connections you need to advance your career.

Take a look at some of the top, most recognized arborist industry associations:

  • TCIA (i.e. Tree Care Industry Association)
  • ISA (i.e. International Society of Arboriculture)
  • ASCA (i.e. American Society of Consulting Arborists)

Also, consider joining arborist industry conferences, such as:

By the way, did you know, Service Autopilot also hosts an annual Service Edge Conference (i.e. SEC) for field service businesses?

SEC is the perfect opportunity for you to connect with other professionals and businesses within the field service industry!

5. Career Opportunities

As an arborist, there are endless career paths you can take within the industry. Take a look at a few of the endless opportunities you have within your new career:

No matter which career path you take, becoming an arborist is a lucrative profession with countless opportunities for you to advance your career within the industry.

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Now You Know How to Become an Arborist

At last, you now know how to become an arborist using these expert industry insights and resources to:

  • Become a skilled arborist who stands out from the crowd
  • Choose the right resources, associations, and certifications
  • Set yourself up for long-term success with future growth opportunities

Use these key steps, strategies, and resources so you can discover how to become an arborist with a long-lasting, successful career!


Related: How to Start a Tree Cutting Business


Originally published March 6, 2024 7:00 AM CT

Alyssa Sanders

Alyssa is the Team Lead of Content Marketing at Xplor Field Services. When she's not writing or creating content, you can find her watching a new sci-fi series or shoving her nose into a book.
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